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To provide mathematical precision to the measurement of what we see we use the correlation coefficient. The correlation tells us something about the co-movement of two variables, but nothing about why this movement occurred. Formally, correlation analysis assumes that both variables being analyzed are independent variables. This means that neither one causes the movement in the other. Further, it means that neither variable is dependent on the other, or for that matter, on any other variable. Even with these limitations, correlation analysis can yield some interesting results.

The correlation coefficient, ρ (pronounced rho), is the mathematical statistic for a population that provides us with a measurement of the strength of a linear relationship between the two variables. For a sample of data, the statistic, r, developed by Karl Pearson in the early 1900s, is an estimate of the population correlation and is defined mathematically as:

r = 1 n 1 Σ ( X 1 i X 1 ) ( X 2 i X 2 ) s x 1 s x 2
r = Σ X 1 i X 2 i n X 1 X 2 ( Σ X 1 2 i n X 1 2 ) ( Σ X 2 2 i n X 2 2 )

where s x1 and s x2 are the standard deviations of the two independent variables X 1 and X 2 , X 1 and X 2 are the sample means of the two variables, and X 1i and X 2i are the individual observations of X 1 and X 2 . The correlation coefficient r ranges in value from -1 to 1. The second equivalent formula is often used because it may be computationally easier. As scary as these formulas look they are really just the ratio of the covariance between the two variables and the product of their two variances. That is to say, it is a measure of relative variances.

In practice all correlation and regression analysis will be provided through computer software designed for these purposes. Anything more than perhaps one-half a dozen observations creates immense computational problems. It was because of this fact that correlation, and even more so, regression, were not widely used research tools until after the advent of “computing machines”. Now the computing power required to analyze data using regression packages is deemed almost trivial by comparison to just a decade ago.

To visualize any linear relationship that may exist review the plot of a scatter diagrams of the standardized data. [link] presents several scatter diagrams and the calculated value of r. In panels (a) and (b) notice that the data generally trend together, (a) upward and (b) downward. Panel (a) is an example of a positive correlation and panel (b) is an example of a negative correlation, or relationship. The sign of the correlation coefficient tells us if the relationship is a positive or negative (inverse) one. If all the values of X 1 and X 2 are on a straight line the correlation coefficient will be either 1 or -1 depending on whether the line has a positive or negative slope and the closer to one or negative one the stronger the relationship between the two variables. BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THE CORRELATION COEFFICIENT DOES NOT TELL US THE SLOPE.


Remember, all the correlation coefficient tells us is whether or not the data are linearly related. In panel (d) the variables obviously have some type of very specific relationship to each other, but the correlation coefficient is zero, indicating no linear relationship exists.

If you suspect a linear relationship between X 1 and X 2 then r can measure how strong the linear relationship is.

    What the value of r Tells us:

  • The value of r is always between –1 and +1: –1 ≤ r ≤ 1.
  • The size of the correlation r indicates the strength of the linear relationship between X 1 and X 2 . Values of r close to –1 or to +1 indicate a stronger linear relationship between X 1 and X 2 .
  • If r = 0 there is absolutely no linear relationship between X 1 and X 2 (no linear correlation) .
  • If r = 1, there is perfect positive correlation. If r = –1, there is perfect negative correlation. In both these cases, all of the original data points lie on a straight line: ANY straight line no matter what the slope. Of course, in the real world, this will not generally happen.

    What the sign of r Tells us

  • A positive value of r means that when X 1 increases, X 2 tends to increase and when X 1 decreases, X 2 tends to decrease (positive correlation) .
  • A negative value of r means that when X 1 increases, X 2 tends to decrease and when X 1 decreases, X 2 tends to increase (negative correlation) .


Strong correlation does not suggest that X 1 causes X 2 or X 2 causes X 1 . We say "correlation does not imply causation."

Questions & Answers

how can chip be made from sand
Eke Reply
is this allso about nanoscale material
are nano particles real
Missy Reply
Hello, if I study Physics teacher in bachelor, can I study Nanotechnology in master?
Lale Reply
no can't
where is the latest information on a no technology how can I find it
where we get a research paper on Nano chemistry....?
Maira Reply
nanopartical of organic/inorganic / physical chemistry , pdf / thesis / review
what are the products of Nano chemistry?
Maira Reply
There are lots of products of nano chemistry... Like nano coatings.....carbon fiber.. And lots of others..
Even nanotechnology is pretty much all about chemistry... Its the chemistry on quantum or atomic level
no nanotechnology is also a part of physics and maths it requires angle formulas and some pressure regarding concepts
Preparation and Applications of Nanomaterial for Drug Delivery
Hafiz Reply
Application of nanotechnology in medicine
has a lot of application modern world
what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
ya I also want to know the raman spectra
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
yes that's correct
I think
Nasa has use it in the 60's, copper as water purification in the moon travel.
nanocopper obvius
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
what is differents between GO and RGO?
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
analytical skills graphene is prepared to kill any type viruses .
Any one who tell me about Preparation and application of Nanomaterial for drug Delivery
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
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Source:  OpenStax, Introductory statistics. OpenStax CNX. Aug 09, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11776/1.26
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